Visual Arts

These are the arts that meet the eye and evoke an emotion through an expression of skill and imagination. They include the most ancient forms, such as painting and drawing, and the arts that were born thanks to the development of technology, like sculpture, printmaking, photography, and installation art, the latter a combination of multiple creative expressions. Though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, different eras in art history have had their own principles to define beauty, from the richly ornamented taste of the Baroque to the simple, utilitarian style of the Prairie School.
Browse Subcategories

Featured content, July 10, 2020

Art History: The Origins of 7 of Your Favorite Art Supplies
Are crayons ancient, or just timeless?
List / Visual Arts
Painting palette with oil paints and brushes. Rainbow colored paints, arts and entertainment
Street Photography: How a Single Camera Brought About a Genre
The invention of the Leica camera allowed photographers to move through the streets and capture moments that come and go...
Companion / Visual Arts
vintage Leica photo camera at KPI Museum, July 24, 2015, in Kiev, Ukraine
What’s the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Art?
Is that odd installation piece that rains on you when you get near it modern or contemporary art? Here are some tips on how...
Demystified / Visual Arts
The Jeff Koons tulips sculputure outside the Guggenheim Museums in Bilbao, Spain, Basque Country.
The Most Stolen Work of Art
Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece has been stolen by Napoleon and Hitler, among others.
#WTFact / Visual Arts
Click on image for enlargements of panel sections. The Ghent Altarpiece (open view) by Jan and Hubert van Eyck, 1432, polyptych with 12 panels, oil on panel; in the Cathedral of Saint-Bavon, Ghent, Belg.
Egyptian art and architecture
Egyptian art and architecture, the ancient architectural monuments, sculptures, paintings, and decorative crafts produced...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Anubis weighing the soul of the scribe Ani, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, c. 1275 bce.
Abstract art
Abstract art, painting, sculpture, or graphic art in which the portrayal of things from the visible world plays no part....
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Willem de Kooning: Woman II
Video art
Video art, form of moving-image art that garnered many practitioners in the 1960s and ’70s with the widespread availability...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Early Netherlandish art
Early Netherlandish art, sculpture, painting, architecture, and other visual arts created in the several domains that in...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowing Virgin), oil on panel by the workshop of Dieric Bouts, 1480/1500; in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Visual Arts Quizzes

"The Adoration of the Shepherds" by Andrea Mantegna in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1450.
This or That? Painter vs. Architect
Think you know your artists? Try to remember if these famous names were painters or architects.
Costume sketch for two Beotian ('Two Bacchantes') women, from the Ballets Russes production of Tcherepnin's "Narcissus", 1911 by Leon Bakst. Mythological poem with music by N. Cherepnin, 1911. Watercolour, gouache, pencil, gold, silver on paper.
Ballet: Fact or Fiction?
What is a pirouette? Where does ballet terminology come from? Test your knowledge with this quiz.
Colorful abstract painting composition, illustration, futurism, futurist, art movement, arts and entertainment
Meet the Futurists
Think you know Futurism? Test your knowledge of the important people, places, and works with this quiz.
Original caption: Close-up of leaves, from directly above, "In Glacier National Park," Montana. Photograph shot in 1942 by Ansel Adams (1902-1984) Black and white photograph. Photography. Landscape photographer.
Know Your Photographers
How many famous photographers can you name? Test your knowledge with this quiz.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 'Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary', 1878. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia. Jeanne Samary was an actress at the Comedie Francaise. Bust portrait.
Name the Impressionists
Can you match these famous Impressionists’ surnames to their given names?
The gardens at the Palace of Versailles in France were designed by Andre Le Notre.
Baroque Art and Architecture: Fact or Fiction?
What does "Baroque" mean, anyway? What happened during the Baroque period? Test your knowledge with this quiz.
Bavarian Alps. Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany.
Castles: Fact or Fiction?
Are you a castle connoisseur, or does your knowledge end at Disneyland? Test your castle cred with this quiz.
Claude Monet's home in Giverny, France.
This or That? Manet vs. Monet
Their names only differ by one letter, but their works vary greatly. See if you can tell which of these things is true about...
President Abraham Lincoln. Statue of Abraham Lincoln, designed by Daniel Chester French, in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Who Made That?
You’ve probably heard of most of the famous works of art in this quiz—but do you remember who made them?
Illustrations of Clowns
Clowning Around
Clowns have a longer history than you might think. Whether you love them or are terrified of them, test your knowledge of...
Image Gallery
Visual Arts
Never Miss a Day in History
Sign up for daily fun facts about this day in history, updates, and special offers delivered right to your inbox.

Visual Arts Subcategories

Anubis weighing the soul of the scribe Ani, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, c. 1275 bce. Architecture
Architecture is a sphere of art and design in which functionality and aesthetics can combine to produce visually stunning structures that manage to both catch the eye and serve a functional purpose. The expansive variety of architectural styles that have been employed throughout the ages underscores the fact that not every building need look the same, a principle that is readily apparent when comparing Gothic cathedrals with igloos or pagodas with cliff dwellings. Noted architects such as Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei, Zaha Hadid, and Jeanne Gang are acclaimed not only for the striking aesthetics of their designs but also for the way in which their work reflected cultural themes and values. Although architecture is commonly associated first and foremost with the design and construction of buildings, landscape architects may work with gardens, parks, and other planned outdoor areas, aiding in the development and decorative planning of such spaces.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Arts Awards
Awards such as the Praemium Imperiale and the Pritzker Prize honor artists for a job well done.
Articles
Scene from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Decorative Art
People appreciate the usefulness of things like glassware and furniture, but they appreciate such objects even more when they’re aesthetically pleasing, too. That’s where decorative art comes in. Explore the world of basketry, metalwork, pottery, interior design, tapestry, and more.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Fashion Design
Looking to make a statement without even saying a word? Fashion designers know that clothing and accessories can speak volumes about the wearer, affecting both how the wearer is perceived by others and how the wearer perceives of him- or herself. The fashion industry has become a multibillion-dollar global enterprise devoted to the business of making and selling clothes; it thrives by being diverse and flexible enough to gratify any consumer's desire to embrace or even to reject fashionability, however that term might be defined.
Articles
Jane Avril, lithograph poster by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1893; in the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Albi, France. Graphic Art
Calligraphy, graffiti, engraving, caricature: graphic art's domain stretches as far as the eye can see. Take a look at some of the other types of graphic art, and learn more about the artists working within this category of fine arts.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Installation & Performance Art
Learn about the artists who create installation art, which can incorporate a variety of different materials and artistic forms, such as sculptures, videos, and music, all with the purpose of transforming a given space. Performance artists may also make use of videos and music—as well as such varied elements as acting, poetry, dance, and painting—to create a live presentation for an audience; here, the "audience" could simply consist of onlookers on the street or patrons browsing the halls of a museum, among countless other possibilities.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Painting
Need help distinguishing your Picassos from your Monets? Learn about history’s celebrated painters and the different styles, techniques, mediums, and forms that have been used to create such unique visual images as Salvador Dalí’s melting clock and the ever-shifting eyes of Leonardo da Vinci’s enigmatic Mona Lisa.
Articles
Becher, Bernd; Becher, Hilla Photography
Photography’s history began long before we were snapping pictures on camera phones. Learn about the masters of the craft and explore the development of photographic technology as it progressed through daguerreotypes and tintypes on the way to modern day’s increasingly sophisticated digital cameras.
Articles
Apollo and Daphne, marble sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1622–24; in the Borghese Gallery, Rome. Sculpture
Looking to find a use for that extra clay, stone, plaster, or metal that you have lying around? Consider sculpture, in which artists employ these materials and others to create three-dimensional art. Perhaps you’ll join the ranks of noted sculptors such as Michelangelo, Auguste Rodin, and Donatello.
Articles
Your preference has been recorded
Check out Britannica's new site for parents!
Subscribe Today!